Moskowitz is a powerful and unrepentant example of the oft-derided species “neoliberal,” signifying a belief in market-driven solutions, public-private partnerships and some degree of government downsizing and deregulation. (Most of her New York political battles have involved attempts to limit or shackle the immensely powerful teachers’ unions.) A longtime ally of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and supporter of Hillary Clinton — but also one who has praised President Donald Trump for his support of charter schools — Moskowitz is arguably one of the last and best of the uncloseted neoliberals. Whether or not you agree with her educational philosophy and her tactics, the case she makes is clear and strong.
No parent, as Moskowitz said in our conversation, can base their decisions on long-term questions of educational policy. They want the best possible education for their kids in the best possible schools, and Moskowitz believes she has cracked the code for doing that in some of New York’s most underprivileged neighborhoods. As I can testify (as the dad of two middle-school kids), any parent who hears Moskowitz talk about the central role poetry plays in the curriculum of Success Academy is likely to swoon a little. She insists that all children need recess every day, no matter how cold or hot it is outside or how the school day is going. She believes in art and drama and music, not as optional activities but regular classes. Her schools are rigorous but do not teach toward standardized tests, she says; her students are challenged but never abused. (To be clear, some of these claims would be contested by Moskowitz’s critics.)